Recent corruption cases plaguing the ruling Concertación coalition have had little effect on the public popularity of Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, according to a poll carried out by the Centre for Public Studies (CEP).
President Bachelet's rating has in fact jumped 6 percentage points ÃÂ¢€" from 46% in June and July, to 52% at the end of last year. An even higher number ÃÂ¢€" 59% ÃÂ¢€" said they "trusted" their head of state. "It's clear that President Bachelet maintains a high approval rating," said CEP analyst Carmen La Foulon. "Statistically speaking, it's a very significant rise." The survey ÃÂ¢€" involving 1,505 people throughout Chile ÃÂ¢€" showed little difference between the opinions of men and women, perhaps indicating some progress in President Bachelet's battle for sexual equality. The surveys comes at what has what has been referred to as the ruling Concertación's darkest period since the coalition ÃÂ¢€" made up of the Socialist Party (PS), Christian Democratic (DC) party, Party for Democracy (PPD) and the Radical Party (PRSD) ÃÂ¢€" came to power following the return of democratic rule in 1990. The coalition stands accused of the misappropriation of government funds through community sports program Chiledeportes and of supporting its own parties with special government funds. The scandal grabbed headlines last October when a routine audit of Chiledeportes revealed grave irregularities and it is now believed that as much as a million US dollars may have been siphoned out of Chiledeportes and used in turn to fund local campaigns. While President Bachelet maintained her distance from the Chiledeportes scandal currently rocking the Concertación, other government politicians have not been so lucky. The PPD's Guido Girardi - who admitted falsifying financial documents to "balance the books" ÃÂ¢€" hit a low 19% approval rating, while former President Ricardo Lagos scored just 9%. In a speech President Bachelet defended her government against former PPD member Jorge Schaulsohn's accusation that the Concertación had "an ideology of corruption". The survey, however, indicated that she may have a hard task convincing the public ÃÂ¢€" 59% said political parties were the most corrupt institutions in Chile. The corruption scandal could have contributed to favourable results for the Alliance opposition. Carlos Larraín, President of the National Renovation Party (RN), registered a rise of 3 points in his approval rating. When it came to the current administration's handling of the economy, figures were also up since the last survey. Forty-five percent of participants approved of government policy, while 35% disapproved and 16% declined to answer. Over half said they felt current economic trends would continue steadily. SOURCE: EL MERCURIO ONLINE By Beatrice Karol Burks (email@example.com)